Acts 1:6

Friday, 1 October 2021

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Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6

The verse now folds into what was said in the previous two verses. In verse 1:4, it said, “And being assembled together.” After that, they were given instruction by the Lord. Now, it reiterates that they had been assembled. However, this doesn’t negate that they were assembled in one place, and then they came together in another.

In other words, verse 1:4 may be the same event recorded in Luke 24:49, and this verse now is their assembling on the Mount of Olives many days later, or verse 1:4 could be a repeat of the thought of Luke 24:49 many days later, and the words now are recorded at that same time. Either way, no damage is done to the chronology.

The Promise was made, events occurred over the next many days, and now forty days later (after the resurrection – Luke 1:3), the Lord gives his final words to His disciples. In this context, the words begin with, “Therefore, when they had come together.”

This is the final gathering on the Mount of Olives (see 1:9). The disciples don’t yet know this, but this location is chosen in anticipation of the fulfillment of a prophecy from Scripture that will be explained when verse 1:11 is evaluated. For now, it next says, “they asked Him.”

The verb is in the imperfect tense. It thus indicates a repetition of the question, urging Him for an answer. As such, it is like an interrogation – “they were asking Him” (repeatedly). This was a topic of much importance to them as they were “saying, Lord, ‘will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’”

One can see John asking, “Lord are we going to kick the Romans out of the land?” The next asks, “Where is Your palace going to be?” A third might have asked, “Lord, can I choose the area I will supervise. I really love the area around Galilee.” In other words, the questions are all stemming from a particular perspective – that of the promised messianic kingdom age.

This would have been the hope of every Jew who held to the veracity of their Scriptures. They literally drip with such promises, such as –

“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:1-4

So certain is this particular prophecy that it is carefully repeated in Malachi 4:1-4. Understanding that this is a literal, earthly rule, and understanding that Jesus appears to confirm it here and elsewhere (such as Matthew 19:28 and in several of His parables), this was what was most pressing on the minds of the disciples.

It is this idea, that of a literal rule on earth known as the “kingdom age,” that causes a great deal of confusion among scholars. Many deny the literal nature of the prophecies, saying that when the Jews rejected Christ, the kingdom was transferred to the church and the church has replaced Israel.

That view, known as replacement theology, is not heretical, but it is dismissive of a literal interpretation of Old Testament passages, it denies a literal reading of the “thousand years” referred to six times in Revelation 20, and it disregards the establishment and fulfillment of the covenants with the fathers (meaning both that made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that made to the people brought out of Egypt and given covenantal promises at Mount Sinai) in the books of Moses.

Others find this kingdom to be one designated for the Jews, and therefore there must be two gospels (one to the Jew through Peter and one to the Gentiles through Paul). This is a heretical view known as hyperdispensationalism. It takes the words of the New Testament authors and epistles and it divides them up in such a manner that only the words of Paul are accepted as a valid presentation of doctrine and practice to the church today. It dismisses the words of Revelation 1-3, saying they belong solely to Israel of the future, and it rejects the words of Jesus which are prescriptive for the church concerning baptism and evangelism.

There are innumerable other incorrect ideas concerning the status and future of Israel that have been presented. Some are simply poor doctrine, some are heretical. One must carefully pay heed to what is stated in the Old Testament in order to form a proper understanding of what the future of Israel will be.

Life application: The “kingdom” spoken of in Acts 1:6 is not always the same kingdom referred to by the apostles in the epistles. Further, in Acts 8, Philip preaches “the things concerning the kingdom of God.” This kingdom of God is then validated and approved of by Peter and John who went to Samaria in response to Philip’s preaching. This same kingdom is then referred to in Acts 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; and 28:23 & 28:31 when it is proclaimed by Paul and those with him.

The “kingdom of God” refers to a right relationship with God because of the final, full, and finished work of Jesus Christ. It applies to Jew and Gentile. This is obvious, because Paul first proclaims it to the Jews in every location he goes, such as in Acts 28:23 noted above, and then he proclaims it to the Gentiles immediately afterward.

The “kingdom” of Israel is the fulfillment of the “kingdom age” promises made to Israel for possession of and security within the land of Israel, and of ruling by the Lord over the nations from that land. In dismissing the latter (replacement theology), or incorrectly mixing the two (hyperdispensationalism), a faulty view of the redemptive narrative is arrived at.

Be careful what you absorb into your doctrine, or you are bound to wind up as confused as the countless souls who have accepted such views. Your walk with the Lord will be harmed, and your understanding of other core doctrines (such as eternal security, the covenant-keeping nature of the Lord, the eternal nature of God’s decrees, and so on) are all tied up in what you believe about the literal nature of the kingdom promises to Israel, and how they relate to the overall “kingdom of God” that proclaims a right restoration with God because of the work of Jesus Christ.

Lord God, how wonderful it is to know of Your faithfulness to Your covenantal promises to Israel. If You were to not fulfill them, then how could we trust You with our souls in the New Covenant that was established through the blood of Christ. But You are faithful to that unfaithful nation, and we know that You will always be faithful to us, even when we fail You. Praise You forever, O God! Amen.